Inspirational Singers: Stevie Wonder
With the recent events following George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement, I’m bringing you another champion personality. Most of you should already be familiar with him as one of the great inspirational singers we still have with us today, a living legend if you may. Unlike most singers I’ve already talked about, he was handicapped since he was born, not just because of his skin color, but his lost eyesight.
They often say that when God takes something from you, he gives something ‘even greater back in return. People may not believe that, but this iconic individual does have immense talent in singing, songwriting, and playing musical instruments despite his disability.
The Birth of A Prodigy
Stevland Hardaway aka Stevie Wonder was born in Saginaw, Michigan. He was prematurely born and had a case of retinopathy, which led to his blindness. His childhood might have been predicted as troublesome, but it’s surprisingly fulfilling for Stevie himself.
He didn’t see anyone’s faces when he was a kid, but he was very sociable to everyone. He didn’t see how his neighborhood looked like, but he played in it as if a regular child without a care in the world. He even established a small band with his friend.
His mother decided to separate from his father. They moved from Saginaw to Detroit after that. She also decided to change their surnames back to Morris. These (add, ‘series’ of) events only allowed Stevie to get closer to the opportunities he grabbed to become a successful singer.
As soon as Stevie learned to walk, he started as a choir boy in the local church. When he got a bit older, he started playing the harmonica, piano, and drums. He had a friend, John, who he always hung out and played with. They typically used their time to play in the streets and at parties.
At 10 years old, he already mastered his musical instruments. This was the time that he became prolific at songwriting and musical arrangement. He would continue to pursue this until he was signed into the prestigious Motown Records.
Little Stevie Wonder
Stevie was 11 years old when he had the chance to sing his composition, Lonely Boy, to Ronnie White of The Miracles. Impressed, he took Stevie and his mother to Motown to get him to sign a contract. Clarence Paul, a producer in the company, nicknamed him as Little Stevie Wonder. During the first years of Stevie’s career, Paul worked with him.
Despite having compositions of his own, Stevie started mostly recording covers of Ray Charles’ songs. The next album mostly contained instrumentals composed by Paul with little input from Stevie. When Paul believed that the masses were ready for Stevie, they started recording original singles.
Talent Refined But Another Taken Away
Since he’s too young to take large amounts of money from his songs, a trust fund was created for him by Motown records. His mother, on the other hand, receives stipends for his family’s expenses.
Aside from those, Stevie worked with tutors to ensure he got the education he needed and to further refine his musical skills. Some of those tutors were the renowned Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson. By 1964, two years after his debut in Motown, the “Little” part in his moniker was removed, and that started his career as Stevie Wonder.
If blindness wasn’t enough, Stevie Wonder also lost his sense of smell after he got injured in a car crash in 1973. He temporarily lost his sense of taste, but thankfully, recovered. This incident caused Stevie to become a bit more religious than before. He released gospel-funk songs like Higher Ground and Have A Talk With God after this incident.
Influence and Legacy
There’s no doubt that Stevie Wonder is an inspiration to millions around the world. After all, even young and old stars in this era put him on a pedestal’)
His artistic sense enhanced how rock, blues, jazz, and reggae are composed and played. It allowed him to spearhead in show business as a massively popular black entertainer in the United States, which only a handful of people achieved in the white-dominated industry.
Currently, he has won 25 Grammy Awards and achieved more than 30 top ten hits in the US. He’s also one of the few people that wasn’t indicted in the Songwriters and Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.
Health-wise, Stevie has been enduring some kidney problems and is currently undergoing dialysis. Despite that, he’s still on a roll touring around the world and performing his best hits.
Stevie doesn’t have any scandal whatsoever. He’s just pure hard work, success, and passion for his music. Compared to the recent black celebrities I reviewed before him on this website, Stevie doesn’t get involved in any political and social issues plaguing the country and it’s refreshing to see a man of music who doesn’t see and think about color. He wanted his music to be heard, and, indeed, it got through loud and clear.
Regardless of disability, Stevie was able to reach people who had things he didn’t have and yet he elevated himself to new heights many times over. Know that the peak of Stevie’s career was when he lost something, his sense of smell, on top of being blind, so that he could give us the music we’ve so enjoyed for many years.
For a while now, I’ve been thinking about the existence of ‘tremendous and extraordinary talent. It’s clear that Stevie is in a league of his own, but is it really because he was born with it? Michael Jackson was trained hard by his father. Aretha turned to music when her mother died. Tupac brought his life experiences in his lyrics. How about Stevie Wonder? It would be a challenge to deny the fact that being blind made him transcend his performances beyond just musical skills and even greater heights.
So, what do you think? Is there such a thing as merely talent – a game-changer for these inspirational singers, or are they just too passionate? Does adversity, poverty, deficiency or struggles in life have something to do with it?. History didn’t cover it as much as we want to know, but I can tell you this, Stevie didn’t let anything get in the way to get to what we know about him and his accomplishments today.